Team Sweden figures to be pretty darn good in this tournament and its defense group is a big part of the reason why. With guys like Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Victor Hedman and Erik Karlsson leading the way, Sweden is all set defensively.
Much like the forward group, all of Sweden’s defenders are NHL players and even the bottom pairing will be a force to be reckoned with. Karlsson and Ekman-Larsson will likely play together on the top pairing, with Hedman on the second pairing with Anton Stralman.
From there, Sweden can’t really go wrong. Like I said in the forwards post, this team figures to be one of Canada’s biggest obstacles in the upcoming tournament. They should pretty handily advance through their group at which point they’ll have a pretty difficult matchup coming into the knockout stage.
I don’t think Sweden is going to win this tournament, but I think they’ve got the best shot of any team other than Canada and the United States to get it done.
Team Sweden Defenders
Mattias Ekholm, Nashville Predators
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
Niklas Hjalmarsson, Chicago Blackhawks
Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim Ducks
Anton Stralman, Tampa Bay Lightning
PLAYERS TO WATCH
OEL is one of the better offensive defenders in the NHL, a fact I imagine many forget because he plays for the Arizona Coyotes. Sharks fans are all too familiar with what this guy is capable of, and if Sweden makes a deep run in this tournament the rest of the world may find out soon, too.
The guy who should have won the Norris Trophy this past year is still the best defender in the world. He’s the best scoring defender in the league and he’s no slouch defensively either (don’t believe what the haters would tell you).
Hedman is a playmaking defender and an excellent possession driver for the Tampa Bay Lightning. He could be a No. 1 pairing defender for most teams in this tournament and will provide some much-needed depth for Team Sweden.
First Game: Sept. 18, Team Sweden vs. Team Russia, 12 p.m. PT, ESPN